Immunizations Aren’t Just For Kids

(Photo by Douglas Demaio)
(Photo by Douglas Demaio)

Did you know that adults need vaccines and boosters too? If you didn’t, you are not alone. Many adults are not aware of recommended vaccines and booster shots and that means they are not taking advantage of the best protection available against a number of serious diseases.

Vaccines contain the same germs that cause disease. (For example, measles vaccine contains measles virus and Hib vaccine contains Hib bacteria.) But they have been either killed or weakened to the point that they don’t make you sick. A vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease without having to get the disease first. Some vaccines contain only a part of the disease germ. Unlike most medicines, which treat or cure diseases, vaccines prevent them.


According to the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS):
• Only about one out of five (21 percent) adults 19-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions had received a pneumococcal vaccination.
• Only about one out of four (24 percent) of adults 60 years and older had received a shingles vaccination.
• Only about one out of six (17 percent) of adults 19 years and older had received a Tdap vaccine in the last eight years to provide protection from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).


Who Needs A Vaccine?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all adults get the following vaccines:
• Influenza vaccine every year to protect against seasonal flu.
• Td vaccine every 10 years to protect against tetanus.
• Tdap vaccine once instead of Td vaccine to protect against tetanus and diphtheria plus pertussis (whooping cough).
• Other vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, job, health condition and vaccines you have had in the
past. Vaccines may include those
that protect against: shingles, human papillomavirus (which can cause
certain cancers), pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, hepatitis A and B, chickenpox (varicella), and measles, mumps and rubella.
• The CDC recommends people with asthma, COPD or other conditions that affect the lungs get a yearly influenza (flu) vaccine and a pneumo­coccal vaccine, once as an adult before age 65 years of age and again at age 65.
• People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of hepatitis B virus infection. Hepatitis B can be spread through sharing of blood glucose meters, finger stick devices or other diabetes care equipment such as insulin pens. Adults with diabetes (type 1 or type 2) ages 19 through 59 should receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after being diagnosed with diabetes.
• Diabetes, either type 1 or type 2,
can weaken the immune system’s ability to fight the flu. People with diabetes, even if well managed, are more likely than those without diabetes to have complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization.
The CDC also recommends people with diabetes get a pneumococcal vaccine, once as an adult before age 65 years of age and again at age 65 years, and a yearly influenza (flu) vaccine and a hepatitis B vaccine series if they’re between the age 19 and 59.
• People with heart disease or those who have had a stroke have a higher risk of serious medical complications from the flu, including worsening of their heart disease. People with heart disease are at almost three times higher risk of being hospitalized with influenza than those without heart disease.
People with heart disease should receive a pneumococcal vaccine and a yearly influenza (flu) vaccine.
Special situations make receiving vaccines critical including:
• College students and military recruits
• Health care workers
• Pregnant women
• Those with history of disease and allergies
• International travelers
Before you travel internationally, ensure that you are up-to-date on all your routine vaccines, as well as travel vaccines. More Americans are traveling internationally each year. In fact more than a third of Americans have a passport, an increase from only 10 years ago. It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks.

Yellow fever is one of a number of diseases that travelers should be vaccinated against if travel abroad is planned.
Yellow fever is one of a number of diseases that travelers should be vaccinated against if travel abroad is planned.

Vaccines can help protect you against a number of serious diseases, including typhoid and yellow fever that are found in some developing countries. Vaccine-preventable diseases that are rarely seen in the United States, like polio, can still be found in other parts of the world, and measles still occurs in many countries.
There were more than 120,000 estimated measles deaths worldwide in 2012 and this viral illness remains a leading cause of death among children in some developing countries. A recent measles outbreak in the Philippines has led to about 40,000 measles cases and 70 people have died from the disease.
The United States has seen importation of measles cases from about 20 countries this year. The CDC recommends that all U.S. travelers six months of age or older be protected from measles and, if needed, receive MMR vaccine prior to departure.

As equally important as it is for adults to get vaccinated is being sure to keep accurate immunization records.
As equally important as it is for adults to get vaccinated is being sure to keep accurate immunization records.


Keeps Track of Your Vaccinations
Keep track of your vaccines to ensure you are up-to-date and have maximum protection against vaccine-
preventable diseases. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or other immunization provider for a copy of your vaccination record. Your vaccination record (sometimes called your immunization record) provides a history of all the vaccines you received as a child and adult. This record may be required for certain jobs, travel abroad or school registration.
The records that typically exist of your vaccinations are the ones you or your parents were given when the vaccines were administered and the ones in the medical record of the doctor or clinic where the vaccines were given.
If you need official copies of vaccination records, or if you need to update your personal records, there are several places you can look:
• Ask parents or caregivers if they have records of your childhood immunizations.
• Look through baby books or other saved documents from your childhood.
• Check with your high school or college health services for dates of any immunizations.
• Check with previous employers (including the military) that may have required immunizations.
• Check with your doctor or clinic. Most records are maintained for a limited number of years.
• Contact the New York State health department. Since 2008, New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) records have been maintained for children up to age of 18. If your vaccine provider participates in an immunization registry, ask that your vaccines be documented there as well.
If you can’t find your personal records or records from the doctor, you may need to get some of the vaccines again. Some vaccines and immunities are detected through a routine blood test at your doctor’s office.
Vaccination is simple and can help prevent diseases that could result in serious health problems, missed work, medical bills and not being able to care for your family. Staying healthy is a priority for everyone, especially for those with compromised immune systems and chronic conditions.
Speak with your health care provider. Find out which vaccines are recommended for you. Check out the CDC’s website at for more information. Don’t wait. Vaccinate. For a list of vaccine-preventable diseases, go here.

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